On Friday and Saturday this weekend, we hosted a yard sale at our house.
It was the first one I had ever done, and it took a lot of work — maybe four straight weekends of clearing out closets and sifting through boxes and going through cupboards and sorting through shelves — but the end result was worth it. Not only does our house feel a whole lot lighter now and the extra cash feel nice, but we discovered ourselves enjoying the very "village-y" feel of the whole experience.
So many different kinds of people show up at a yard sale. Some are dealers, others weekend hobbyists. Some are homemakers, others just working to survive.
And in the midst of this whole new experience, I noticed quite quickly the difference it makes to say hello. "Good morning!" or "Hello!" with a big, welcoming smile broke down barriers immediately. It elicited smiles and greetings in return. It opened up channels of friendliness. It led to chit-chat about the weather and how the morning was going. It put people at ease. Opened them up. Lowered their guard.
Such small acts, easy to give. And yet what a difference they made.
I can't tell you the countless times I've gone in and out of places, from car to grocery aisles to checkout line to parking lot, say, without ever making eye contact or offering a smile to anyone. A vivid memory plays in my mind of the mornings I stopped at a local 7-11 before my morning commute years ago when I lived in Huntington Beach, California. Clusters of men loitered outside the store each morning, waiting for an offer of a day's work. I could feel their eyes on me the moment I stepped from my car, watching me walk from car to store and back again.
Armor up. Make no eye contact.
The impulse stays with me even now.
And yet this weekend, as an assortment of lives and stories made their way up our driveway over the course of the last two days, I discovered what a difference hello can make. I saw the relax that takes hold with a smile. I experienced what neighborliness can do, how it opens us up to laughter and stories.
This, I think, is one thing welcome is: a willingness to smile and say hello, to notice and acknowledge the other.
My mind keeps drifting to Jesus and the woman at the well — how he acknowledged her and asked for a drink, how that simple request led to a real conversation about real things, how she found the freedom to ask her most pressing questions, how she eventually ran into town, unable to contain her story of the man who told her who she was.
Would I be willing to say hello and ask for a drink at the local well? Would I be open to conversation that emerged in the aftermath?
I hope, after this weekend yard sale experience, I will be more willing to say hello next time I meet a stranger on the way, wherever that way may be.
(This is the first in a series of reflections I'll be writing over the next few weeks about what it means to live in this Still Forming land.)
So let me ask you:
What does welcome look like in your life right now? Do you have any stories to share? Are there any ways welcome is hard?